A Famous Man Once Said, “We Create Our Own Demons”:
In this video, Kurzgesagt, or “In-A-Nutshell” talks about the future of antibiotics and a few of the problems that are already beginning.
In a very Matrix-y reversal of what’s going on into an idea, they say it this way: Most of Humanity right now is collaborating on the engineering of a Superbug.
And if we don’t change in several ways, the consequences of our actions will let Nature’s worst machines win…
The Machines Are Your Friends; Mostly:
Most bacteria are very old and very harmless. You have trillions of nature’s little machines on & in you; and they actually help you stay healthy.
Only a very small few of them are harmful & can infect, multiply and eventually effect your health.
And most antibiotics will kill a large percent of the bacteria in you and let the immune system sweep up the few remaining.
One side-effect of this is depending on what you take, your antibiotic may also be killing a ton of the Good Bugs inside you. This is one of the reasons, probiotics like Kefir after you’ve finished a course of antibiotics are a good idea.
How Do Antibiotics Work Their Mojo?:
Antibiotics flummox the bad bacteria’s action in several ways.
They can ruin the metabolism of the bacteria, eliminating their ability to process their “food”.
Others can get into the center of the bacteria and destroy or seriously interrupt its DNA and ruin the rest of what it does based on that.
They can also breach or destroy the outer walls of their structure, so they can’t maintain their integrity & end up dissolving.
Miraculously!, none of these processes so far seems to harm any of the human body’s regular cells that the bacteria might be encircling.
Nature’s Tiny Machines Are Like Little X-Men, Mutating (for good and bad):
Unfortunately for us, just like well everything else in nature, bacteria are always changing slightly, mutating just like tiny little x-men.
And this leads to them eventually developing resistance, especially over the trillions of different little survival-changes an entire colony can make.
The way they can do this is by Intercepting, Changing or even Neutralizing the incoming chemicals from the antibiotic to move it away so it can’t hurt them.
Small remainders of these newer mutants aren’t that bad because the immune system will figure out a way to neutralize them.
However when bacteria get a chance to move outside a few isolated people and spread, that’s where humanity runs into a problem.
So How Do They Mutate?:
Bacteria have 2 different types of DNA. They have one group in the center similar to our human cells, and a second that floats around in small bubbles called Plasmids.
When different bacteria get close, they can exchange some of the code in those little floating bubbles, and the changes that one made can be transmitted to another.
Seeing as how fast they grow & move around, these changes can end up spreading very quickly. It may only be a matter of time.
They Can Also Mutate Like A Junkyard Car-Modder Gone Mental:
They can pick up stray bits of any gene-code sitting around from other bacteria, especially ones killed by having their outer-walls broken, and then add it to their own.
The scary bit of this, like the insane cars in Mad Max, Fury Road, is they can add odd bits & pieces from completely different species of bacteria.
Not only is this terrifying in its unpredictability, it’s surprising we don’t have more killer superbugs just because of this intra-species repurpose-adaptibility.
For Example: -What if the North Koreans could immediately repurpose old Soviet nukes into an even deadlier weapon? -That’s what it could be like.
What About The Dreaded “Superbugs”?:
These are bacteria strains that are +/- immune to one, or even several antibiotics.
And because hospitals & care-facilities are almost as perfect a breeding-ground as unsanitary, high-density livestock farms most of our meat comes from, we have several superbugs doctors already have to tangle with.
Some of these include MRSA, VRSA and C.Diff, but more are on the way.
Why Do We Have Them & Where Are The New Ones Coming From?:
A few of the problems the developed world faces are a short memory & an addiction to immediate convenience.
We’ve forgotten that vaccinations & antibiotics were created to stand up to devastating old-world problems like Smallpox and Polio.
But now, antibiotics are prescribed & taken entirely too much, and too frivolously.
They really should not represent a convenience or means of accelerating or substituting what our bodies can handle.
And just like the cows & pigs on giant feedlot farms, we end up weakening ourselves because we don’t let our bodies sort things out and only take these meds as an Absolute Last-Resort.
Take a tip from the perpetually-gorgeous Yazemeenah Rossi: If your body can sort it out without prescription meds, it should be allowed to.
Superbugs Also Come From The Farm & Its Connection To Cost + Convenience:
For all of the Meat, Eggs, & Milk Products we consume, we need both Large Scale & Low Cost.
To do this with the livestock, this means high concentrations of animals in the tiniest spaces possible, with the least amount spent on each one.
This also tends to mean bad food, bad treatment, and bad hygiene.
In other words, it’s almost like a hospital for animals who aren’t already sick to go to & get sick.
Because just like a hospital or care-facility, large livestock farms have the perfect conditions to spread sickness; especially if/when one animal falls ill.
Perpetually Bad Conditions+Perpetually Low Income = Perpetual Antibiotic Use:
Because farmers anticipate this and don’t enjoy losing what money they do make, guess what happens to the animals on top of all the original insults?
-Yup, they’re given lots of preventative-antibiotics before they even get sick. And they’re not really given a chance to fight it off the way a human would.
And because of that, antibiotic resistance can build up in all the bacteria that hang out in livestock-land.
Probably pretty-fast, given the sheer numbers of (Animals * Antibiotics * Strains * Colony-size * Mutation-Speed).
Where Is Antibiotic Resistance Going From Here?:
Many different types of kinda-standard antibiotics are used to deal with either different infections, or to attack similar ones using slightly different tactics.
However, there are a few seriously Super-Antibiotics out there that are like the Neutron-Bombs of the drug world.
And there are very strict rules & protocols for using these, so that we don’t damage people’s health with their potency.
-And also so we don’t run into their Nemesis, the Super-Antibiotic-resistant Superbug! [Super-Duper-Bug?]
Just like the Wall-Streeters who twist financial-instruments like Bonds into short-term profit-machines like CDOs only to destroy the whole economy 3 years later,…
China Drops The Bomb: Resistance To Super-Antibiotic Reported:
In late 2015 the antibiotics world got some Really bad news out of China.
Reported Human cases of Resistance to Mega-Antibiotic Colistin.
Colistin is an old drug that’s not often used because it can hurt your liver. -Which means it’s scary stuff, because livers are really resilient things.
The upside of it being so very rarely-used is that almost no bacteria has any resistance to it. A creative-mutation never got a chance to form.
And since superbugs can spread, the news is bad enough that thanks to Chinese farmers, many people could just plain old die because Colistin won’t work.
More Dangerous Stuff Used With No Extreme Care,
Chinese Pig Farmers Lit The Fuse; With A Blowtorch:
If you thought American producers racing to produce the lowest-cost goods was bad, hop on over to China.
Because just like the Lead Paint on Children’s Toys, Melamine in Toothpaste, and Wood-Chips, Houseplants & Excess Pharmaceuticals being sold as Echinacea or Garlic,
-Their manufacturers never seemed to meet a corner they wouldn’t cut.
And one of the producers not careful with potentially-dangerous stuff like Colistin? –Chinese Livestock Farmers.
The world’s new source of dangerous Antibiotic-resistance.
In a move so cuthroat-capitalist it would make John D. Rockefeller blush, they had been feeding one of the strongest, most dangerous antibiotics to their pigs for YEARS; -preventatively even before they got sick.
Agent Smith Hits The Interwebs, Or: How Could This Resistance Spread?:
Then as you would expect by now, Nature’s little machines do their deck-shuffling code-magic, and voila!
-Colistin-resistant bacteria in pigs.
-Which then gets passed down through unsafe processing, butchering, handling, & food-safety methods,
To Humans! -BOOM!
No word on exactly how many cases have been reported, but it’s enough for them to say-so. Perhaps with their less-than-free sharing of information, that is telling.
Cheap Air Transport Creates The Internet Of People:
And then of course, the resistance could then spread out to you and me, carried by an International Traveler.
The average number of travel flights is 100,000 per day, that’s planes-only, and they go from/to almost everywhere in the world. (trains is another 1.34 Billion passenger-miles/day.)
The modern era of relatively-inexpensive transport makes almost an aerial internet of people that connects many countries to others; maybe even most of us,
-And one Super-Antibiotic-resistant-bacteria infected person is just like a digital virus traveling from one end of the internet to another, straight across the whole world.
Don’t Panic (Just Yet):
Yes, the resistant-bugs are always evolving and mutating, even if we were to slow our antibiotic use this minute.
Though I’m not sure which cases Nutshell is referencing, they seem to think that new antibiotics are on the horizon.
-Even though the CDC takes a little more pessimistic view of things and cautions that for at least 3 urgent-threats, we may soon be in a post-antibiotic era.
At Least Two Good Alternatives:
But hopefully, other ones besides the 1) spanking-new Teixobactin are being developed in new and high-speed automated ways, as older ones stop working for the current problems.
And 2) Maybe fighting bacteria with something static is silly. Perhaps instead you send a mutant to kill a mutant, and use a Phage, like Dr. Alexander Sulakvelidze.
But disregarding those 2 rays of light for a second; the problem is Still a serious one.
And stricter procedures for all uses from farm to big-office-workplace-productivity are the sorely-needed fix,
-Even down to the Z-Packs people take to clear up a little sniffle just a few days early.
JUMP BONUS!: If you got through any of that, here’s a [nicely-animated, but perhaps only marginally-appropriate] treat: Enjoy Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”:
[Upd: Chipotle took it down for some reason, so here’s the parody by Funny Or Die instead:]
Video, “The Antibiotic Apocalypse Explained”, by YouTube user, Kurzgesagt
Video, “The Scarecrow”, by YouTube user, Chipotle (no jokes about food contamination, right now) Mexican Grill
Photo, X-Men: Apocalypse publicity poster #2, by Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, The Donners’ Company, and TSG Entertainment
• Source: YT-The Antibiotic Apocalypse Explained
• More Coverage:
•Wired-CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’
•NatGeo-Apocalypse Pig: The Last Antibiotic Begins to Fail
•HT-Drug-Resistant-Superbug Antibiotic Invented With Help Of Sweet Hack
•HT-AncientBiotics: “Eyesalve” Remedy Does In-Fact Fix Styes. -Oh Yeah, And Also Just Happens To Kill Superbugs 1,000 Years Later
•Wired-How Ravenous Soviet Viruses Will Save the World